The idea for this post came from a reader when she wrote to me saying -
I was wondering if there's a certain brand of Greek yogurt that you like to use that is safe for babies? I was at Sprouts and just so overwhelmed by all the different options and brands and some ingredients that I couldn't pronounce. I didn't know which ones were safe so I ended up walking out and getting nothing. My nine month old twins weren't helping me be able to think in the store either but that's how it goes.
I could totally understand her frustration! Who hasn't stared doe-eyed at all of the millions of different yogurts in the refrigeration section at the grocery store? I know which yogurts I always went for pre-babies and they usually were fat-free yogurts with some kind of delicious sounding flavors in them (pineapple or coconut would get me every time). But now for baby, fat-free and flavored yogurt just won't do. For that matter, those won't do it for me either. Because once you try whole milk yogurt, it's really hard to go back!
Above are some of my favorite main stream brands of yogurt for baby that you can pretty much find at any supermarket.
1- Stonyfield Whole Milk Plain Yogurt*
2- Kalona Super Natural Organic Whole Milk Plain Greek Yogurt
3- Wallaby Organic Whole Milk Greek Yogurt
4- Straus Organic Greek Plain Yogurt
5- Nancy’s Organic Whole Milk Probiotic Greek Yogurt
But what is more important then any certain brand is the ingredient list, and before you roll your eyes at me saying you can't possibly have the time to read a label with a kiddo in your cart that has a very short attention span in a grocery store, then let me assure you, the ingredient list on the back of a yogurt label that is good for baby should have only 2 ingredients. Yes 2 ingredients! So if you are lucky to have local yogurt or a certain brand that you prefer you can always just read the label. Since Greek yogurt can get expensive, I usually go for the product that is on sale or the store brand.
Here are the ONLY two ingredients that should be in baby's yogurt:
Organic Whole Milk (Full Fat) - usually this is pasteurized whole milk and may also contain cream for even more fat. You may be able to find unpasteurized yogurt in some states from local farms but for the most part all of the yogurt you will be able to find in a grocery store will use pasteurized milk. Full fat is essential for baby because they need it to develop muscles, brain and bone growth. Babies ages 0-12 months need 30-33 grams of fat a day and toddlers need between 33-35 grams of fat a day! Do not skimp here, get the full fat dairy products. Also, you will find that full fat products taste way better and I don't think I will ever go back to fat-free yogurt or milk again.
Live Active Cultures - Cultures that are commonly used are L. bulgaricus, S. thermonphilius, L. acidophilus, bifidus, L. case and L. rhamnosus. These live active cultures do two things, for starters they make the milk turn into yogurt during the fermentation process and they also provide the gut with probiotics. Now, if your baby needs a huge boost of probiotics (like after a round of antibiotics) I would recommend a powder or liquid form of just probiotics because you are going to get a larger assortment of probiotics for the gut. But for everyday consumption, those active cultures listed above will work just fine.
Greek vs. Plain yogurt
While I commonly use Greek yogurt in my recipes for both baby and toddler, there isn't anything wrong with serving plain yogurt. The different between Greek and Plain yogurt is that Greek yogurt is strained three times versus Plain yogurt which is only strained twice, thus giving Greek yogurt more protein per serving and a creamier thicker consistency. Where as Plain yogurt only has roughly 9 grams of protein per cup, Greek yogurt has roughly 20 grams of protein per cup.
Greek yogurt is great in
- mixed into purees
- for re-usable pouches (makes them thicker so they don't run as much)
- for yogurt parfaits
- for baking
Plain yogurt is great
- for smoothies
- mixed into purees for toddlers
- for baking
Age to Introduce Yogurt to Baby
Yogurt can be introduced anywhere between 6-8 months of age, depending on your baby. I find that it is a great item to mix in (a small teaspoon of at a time) with a food you have already introduce to baby. It is great mixed in with sweet potato + curry, apples + cinnamon or butternut squash + thyme.
* Stonyfield's yogurt contains both pectin and vitamin D. Pectin is often added to yogurt to help stabilize the yogurt (so there is no liquid on top) and increase shelf life. Pectin is okay for baby and many people use it in their homemade yogurt. Since Stonyfield's products are organic and very accessible in almost all areas of the country.